"I haven't felt this strong in a long time."
I typically say this every few months, and usually right before I'm humbled by another injury. That was basically all of 2012 for me.
Every time I felt that I had turned the corner, a new injury would make my running life miserable.
The latest injury made me shut it down completely for three weeks in November.
During this time I did some research into the benefits of strength training for runners, and came across this informative article, among others: Click Me
I also thought about the Marathon Junkie, Chuck Engle. This cwazy dude pretty much runs a sub 3 marathon every weekend (his 52 consecutive marathon average is 2:47), but the thing that stood out for me about him is the fact that he's friggin jacked. He doesn't look like your typical runner with a 2:31 marathon PR. You can definitely tell he does more than just run and rack up weekly mileage. The article linked above describes his weekly routine, which includes core work, swimming, and biking.
So, when I came back in December, I focused on strengthening my core, quads, hammies, glutes, and upper body. I'm sick of getting nagging injuries partway through the season, and now want to be pro-active about preventing them before they happen.
I've been hitting the gym every night and have incorporated leg extensions, leg curls, squats, pull ups, push ups, burpees, etc into my daily routine. Basically, a Spartan-style workout taught to me by Spartan Jim, my newly minted strength coach.
I didn't run a single step during the first two weeks of this new routine. I figured that the cardio engine could wait while I rebuilt the chassis from the ground up.
Thanks to David Penn, I also took up yoga and incorporated some of those stretches into my pre workout routine. Patience was my new mantra. Ohmmmm.
The common argument against a lot of strength training for a runner is that it adds unnecessary bulk. Right now I do feel a step slower than usual, but if the trade off for an injury free year is 2-3 seconds slower per mile, then I'll take it. However, I think the opposite will be true based on what I've personally experienced so far. If things go as planned, I should be able to run faster and further than before. I just first have to get use to the new body armor.
I was a little nervous when I finally started running again by mid December. That first run was as painful as I thought it would be, but only because my cardio still had some catching up to do. My leg pains and injuries were pretty much non-existent. I was cautiously excited.
This past weekend was the biggest test so far to see if I had a shot at sub 3 in Mississippi. This was going to be my second long run since my return to running in mid December.
It didn't hurt that I managed to gather up some of the best runners around to help push me through 16 miles at the GLRR morning group run.
Lindsay Willard was nice enough come up from Somerville. Mike Quintal showed up before heading over to open his store. Stephanie Pancoast came out before she heads back to NorCal. Even Jim Rhodes and Jim Quadros made a rare appearance.
Off we went and I can honestly say, once again, that I haven't felt this strong in a long time...